Preservation as Battle Zone

Tue, Oct 18, 2016    6:30pm

Today more than 50% of the world´s population live in cities, and in 2050 one expects the number to reach 70%. Rapidly growing cities put massive pressure on built heritage, and the conflict between preservation and progress will accelerate - bringing forth a “civil war” among the different stakeholders of the city: investors, developers, politicians, authorities, community groups, heritage advocates, urban planners, architects, artists, activists and others.

Preservation was born out of conflict, rising from the ruins of the French revolution. The discipline has always been infused with war rhetoric and battlefield strategies, enlisting monuments as foot soldiers in the defense of National Heritage. Armed with charters, laws and fierce argumentation, preservation movements have fought urban sanitation, radical utopias and monument pillage for more than two centuries. Adopting the rituals of wartime, preservation evokes rage, victorious joy and grief – counting causalities and making memorials - turning the discipline into a highly emotional battle zone.

This round table will elaborate on the inherent problems and unfulfilled potentials of the “battle zone position” of preservation. Obviously, the dynamic and hazardous properties of war fuels the discipline with energy and activism, but at the same time it can overshadow the more subtle and complex aspects of the field – consequently preventing it from being integrated into a broader disciplinary discourse. How can we combine the vigorous and forceful with the ambiguous and unpredictable? How can we untangle ourselves from the armor of war and take on new identities? And finally: how can we combine progress and preservation to solve the challenges of the future city?

Simeon Bankoff
Naomi Hersson Ringskog
Bryony Roberts
Moderated by Erik Langdalen
Response by Jorge Otero-Pailos

The panel counts a number of leading figures in the field of preservation who will offer different perspectives on the subject matter:

Simeon Bankoff is a preservation activist and Executive Director of the Historic Districts Council in New York.

Erik Langdalen is an architect, Professor of Building Heritage, the Head of Institute of Form, Theory and History at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO) and currently a visiting Adjunct Professor at Columbia GSAPP.

Naomi Hersson Ringskog is the co-founder and former Executive Director of No Longer Empty.

Bryony Roberts is an artist, architect, and currently Adjunct Assistant Professor at both Columbia GSAPP and AHO.

Jorge Otero-Pailos is an architect and an artist, a Professor and the Director of Historic Preservation at Columbia GSAPP.

The discussion will be followed by a reception and launch for the books Tabula Plena: Forms of Urban Preservation edited by Bryony Roberts and Experimental Preservation edited by Jorge Otero-Pailos, Erik Fenstad Langdalen, and Thordis Arrhenius. Published by Lars Müller Publishers with Columbia GSAPP and Oslo School of Architecture and Design.